One of the things I love best about travelling in Europe is how easy it is to travel not only from city to city but country to country. Living in Canada you get used to the idea that it takes days of non-stop driving to get from one coast to another while in a majority of European countries you can get through them in less than a day. I assume that this close proximity of countries explains the Contiki Holiday concept where you can visit multiple countries in a week.
This close proximity also means that if you are travelling in Europe there is the opportunity to visit more than one country or to expand your visit beyond just one city. If you are thinking about trying this you need to look at the different options available and their pros and cons:
Car — if you feel confident, you can rent a car. There are a number of different rental companies and they are competitively priced. While rental prices might be good remember that gas is expensive (even more so than North America) and in many cities parking is hard to find and can be costly. Because of the overall costs many Europeans don’t own cars and rent them when they need one. This is important to remember if you plan on travelling during the summer or around holidays as rental cars will be harder to find. Also make sure to check if your hotel has parking and if there is a charge. If it doesn’t, you will need to find local parking. It is also important to be aware of local driving requirements, laws and regulations. I like to drive if I really just want to explore and have no real travel plans. It allows me the opportunity to pull over any time I see anything interesting and to change my destination at the last minute.
Some rental companies include:
Trains — If I have a set destination train is my preferred method of travel. Trains are frequent, very affordable and well organized. There are a number of different train companies to choose from and special fares and price deals are frequent. Rail Europe is an excellent tool for planning a train holiday and for finding the best prices. Being flexible on travel times can also work to your advantage when it comes to pricing. Depending on the times the difference between economy and premier can be as low as $20.
Depending on the length of your trip premier class can be well worth the additional cost. When going with a premier ticket on a Thalys‘ train you have access to all the amenities including the Thalys lounge at key stations, better and reserved seating, free Wi-Fi and to top it off meal service on trips over 50 minutes are all included in a premier seat. Don’t turn your nose up at the idea of train food, the Europeans also seem to have mastered food on trains. My latest trip include rare roast beef, the wine of my choice, a brussel spout puree that would make even the most anti-veg person change their minds and a desert that was actually enjoyable. Because of the length of my trip, 3 hours, I was also treated to two visits by the snack cart that offers alcoholic beverages, pastries, treats and other beverages. All of which were very tasty.
Planes — I don’t usually fly in Europe unless I am making a connecting flight or the distance is significant. I find the time and cost involved in getting to the airports, most of which are outside the city, the time spent at the airport and the fact that they don’t always fly to the towns I want makes them less than appealing for holiday travel that involves multiple destinations. For those deciding to travel by plane there are a number of airlines to pick from and a wide range of prices and amenities.
The budget airlines offer cheap seats, often under $100 one way, but they have a number of hidden costs and restrictions such as seat reservations, high checked baggage fees, low carry-on luggage allowances, etc. Always be aware of any restrictions as this can double and in some cases triple the cost of your ticket. Make sure you check how far from your hotel the airport is and decide on the best way to make that journey. Taxis can add up quickly and there is often train (subway) service which is cheaper although challenging to navigate if you have lots of luggage.
Many regular airlines have seat sales and are cheaper when flying domestically so always shop around and see what is best for you. Skyscanner is a good website to visit to compare pricing. http://www.skyscanner.com/
I highly recommend that when making plans you take the time to explore all the different options and find the best method of transportation that suites your travel needs.